By Steve Weisman
It’s hard to believe with ice still on the lakes, but in a month the 31st annual Great Walleye Weekend on the Iowa Great Lakes will take place. Scheduled for Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5, this year’s weekend kicks off with the second annual Cast Off Party at East Okoboji’s The Ritz from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 3. Cost for the evening will be $25.
The evening will consist of a social hour from 5:30-6:30 followed by the choice of a chicken or prime rib dinner at 6:30 and a walleye fishing seminar presented by M. Doug Burns, owner of The Iowa Guide Service (www.fishnfunokoboji.com).
Burns is excited for this year’s Cast Off Party. “Last year we had 72 people in attendance, which was great for the first year. The goal is to help raise money for the Easter Seals and at the same time to enjoy ‘talking walleyes’ the evening before the opener.”
Jen Johnson, program director for the Iowa Great Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, shared her excitement for the event. “We think it’s a great addition to the Walleye Weekend, and I look for more to attend this year. Because of room size, we have a capacity of 90.”
Johnson continued, “Thanks to A. Taylor, owner of The Ritz, who will again be hosting the Cast Off Party. Doug did a great job last year. He’s very approachable and knowledgeable about walleye fishing on the Iowa Great lakes.”
Burns shared his thoughts on the seminar. “The seminar will cover tactics that can be used throughout the year, but the emphasis is going to definitely focus on presentation techniques for right now. It seems like no two years are ever the same. Last year we had ice out by mid-March. Now this year we’re still looking for the ice to leave!” Burns added that there will also be time for a question and answer period.
Door prizes will be awarded at the end of the evening with Pioneer Beach Resort offering the grand door prize of a two-night stay for two people at Pioneer Beach Resort and a half day’s guided fishing with The Iowa Guide (Doug Burns). A second main door prize will be a one-day guided fishing outing on North Dakota’s Devils Lake with walleye pro and guide Johnnie Candle.
As with so many of the events during the Great Walleye Weekend, the Cast Off Party is designed to raise money to help the Easter Seals support programs for residents in Dickinson County and the surrounding area who have a disability.
Since the Cast Off Party is limited to 90 people, Johnson encourages people to get signed up early. “When people get their Walleye Weekend registration form, there is a section to fill out for the Cast Off Party. They can also go online at www.okobojichamber.com and sign up there or call (712) 332-2107.